Is it Cheaper to Refill Propane or Exchange

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Should you go for a propane refill or exchange your empty tank for a new one? That’s a million-dollar question. Well, fear not, because you will learn all that you need to know in this post so that every dollar spent is not in vain.

Customers can choose one of the following; either they have the option to refill their propane tank or exchange it. Both scenarios come with a set of advantages and disadvantages. 

People choose a method which is convenient for them, but if we’re talking about money, I’d recommend refilling as I find it cheaper. 

What’s Refilling and Exchanging 


Simply put, you take your propane tank to your local gas station, and a professional fills it up. The customer decides and pays for the lbs of propane they want. 

Refilling tanks is a traditional method that’s been taking place for decades, until a new option, exchanging, was introduced.  


Exchanging is a fast and convenient method. All you have to do is exchange your empty tank with a full one. It’s not time-consuming, and some companies offer home delivery/exchange services as well. 

Although exchanging comes with its benefits, refilling will ultimately save you a few bucks. 

Propane tanks come in different sizes, but I’ll be talking about a standard 20-lb one in this post. 

Why Go for Refilling 

Now, I’ll tell you why I recommend refilling propane tanks rather than exchanging them. 

Paying the Actual Amount 

You pay for the quantity of propane that you require, whether it’s a half tank or a full one.

You get to walk home with an actual full tank of 20 lbs of propane rather than 15 lbs of it. It will last you longer, so fewer trips to the gas station.

Refilling is Safe and Convenient 

Propane tanks come in different sizes. There is a possibility that the size you carry might not be available in the store. So exchanging your tank would be impossible.

Refilling is also safe as stores tend to inspect the expiration date and check if there are any leaks in the tank before they fill it up. 

Although refilling seems like a good deal, there are some things that you need to keep in mind.

Disadvantages of Refilling

Below you’ll find some cons.


Firstly, check that your tank is certified or not. A tank will last you from somewhere between 5 to 6 years of its production date. Most gas stations refuse to fill up an expired tank.

If you come across this problem, then you can quickly get your tank exchanged.

You can also get your tank recertified by contacting the dealers, but that’s time-consuming, expensive, and not worth it.

Moreover, leaks may take place if the tanks are not adequately maintained. 


Refilling your tank is a time-consuming process. 

It is dangerous for one to do it by themselves, so you must wait for a professional. You may even come across a long queue. 

This makes it a little inconvenient, but ultimately you are saving bucks, so the problems mentioned earlier might not bother you.

Why Go for Exchanging 

Whether it’s cheaper to refill propane or exchange, the answer is, refilling will get you your money’s worth. However, exchanging is not as bad as it seems, and it’s okay if you prefer to go down that road.

Process is Fast

It’s easier for you to find more tank exchanging locations rather than refilling ones. Along with your nearest gas station or convenience store, chain supermarkets like Walmart and Home Depot offer propane tank exchange services. 

Going an extra yard, some companies, like Propane Taxi and Forklift Propane Exchange, offer home delivery services, making it easier and convenient.

Tanks are Certified

When you exchange the propane tanks, they are always certified, reliable, tested, and safe. You are guaranteed no leaks, and even if they do take place, you can contact the vendors and demand for damage control.

Disadvantages of Exchanging 

Below you’ll find some cons of exchanging propane. 

You End up Paying More

Think about this; you’re aware that your propane tank is almost empty but has around 5lbs left, so you decide to exchange it. That seems like a probable idea, but what about the bit of propane that was left in the tank? 

Ultimately, you’re paying for a full tank, which is around $18.47 even though you could have gotten it fully refilled for just under $13.76. 

You Do Not Receive a Full Tank

Another disadvantage of exchanging is that companies do not fill their tanks to the full 20 lbs. They underfill it to 15lbs and claim that it’s a ‘full’ tank.

Companies have come up with this policy, simply because of safety measures. However, this is marketing propaganda that claims, after being filled with 20lbs of propane, the tank is left with 20% vapor space.

So this way, not only are you paying for a full tank even if you don’t require one, you’re paying more for a lesser quantity.

Companies implemented this policy when a sudden hike in gas prices took place years ago. They reduced the quantity of propane and tricked their customers into thinking they’re receiving a ‘full’ tank. Even after gas prices were stabilized, these companies continued the same practice as no one wanted to lose its profit margin.

How to Figure Out How Much Propane is Left?

Below you’ll find some methods to weigh your propane so that you can get it refilled or exchanged with total accuracy.

Weighing Machine

Check your propane tank’s tare weight (unladen weight). It probably weighs around 17 lbs when empty.

To figure out the amount of propane in it, simply weigh the tank and subtract it by the tare weight. For example, if the total weight is 25 lbs, then the Propane left is 8lbs. 

This method is not 100% accurate, but it will give you a reasonable estimate. 


This is a bit pricey option, but if you regularly use propane tanks, spending a few dollars on this might be worth it.

  • Digital scale

The digital propane tank scale is a modern one. All that you need to do is hook this gauge up to your tank, and it’ll continuously give updates on the amount of Propane used.

  • Inline pressure gauge

You position it between the gas line and the cut-off valve on the tank. It gives an estimate of the pressure present in the tank so relays whether it’s full, half, or empty.

Hot Water Method

This method is not accurate at all. You’re able to roughly estimate the amount of propane left in your tank.

Pour hot water down the tank and then run your finger along with it. The bottom cold spots on the tank indicate the propane as it absorbs the heat. 

The warm cut-off above the propane tells how empty the tank is.


Final Verdict: Is it Cheaper to Refill Propane or Exchange? 

There’s no doubt that refilling your tank is the more advantageous option. You have control over the amount of propane you require, and you get your money’s worth. 

If a gas station near you is refilling propane, go for it as it’s cheaper. Although it does come with disadvantages, I feel that in the long run, it’s a better option.

If you’re comfortable with exchanging tanks, it’s always a safer option. After all, it all depends on what method is suitable for you. 

I hope that after reading this post, you’ve found answers to your concerns. Not only can you decide which option is more feasible to you, but also you’ll know how to go about assessing your propane tank. 

So, go ahead and fill up your empty propane tank.